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Psa 38:1 A Psalm by David, for a memorial- Psalm 38 appears to be David's lament of his bad conscience, some time before he makes his confession of Ps. 51. But he wishes his situation then to be remembered, to be memorialized, perhaps because he perceived that so many sinners remain in that limbo position for too long, and need to move forward from a niggle about sin towards the full repentance which David came to. In the context of the exiles, they needed to also make this move; and the same word for "memorial" is used often of how they were intended to "remember" (Is. 44:21; 46:8,9).

Yahweh, don’t rebuke me in Your wrath, neither chasten me in Your hot displeasure-
The chastening or "discipline" is the word used for David's experiences after the sin with Bathsheba (s.w. Ps. 6:1; 39:11). David had been open to Nathan's "rebuke" (Ps. 141:5), which was not given in God's wrath so much as in His appeal for David to accept His grace. But this verse is quoted in Heb. 12:5,6 about all of God’s children, who have to go through David’s basic experience in order to become the accepted sons of God. We do all have to be rebuked and chastened, even if like children, like David, we so fear it.

Psa 38:2 For Your arrows have pierced me, Your hand presses hard on me-
Soon after the sin with Bathsheba, David was struck with an apparently terminal disease. He realized this was from God's hand. His sense of being "pierced" means that the language becomes relevant to the piercing of the Lord Jesus on the cross. The Bathsheba psalms are so often those most relevant to the crucifixion experience; because there the Lord achieved total identity with sinful, condemned humanity. He felt exactly as David did- even though He was personally sinless. Solomon seems to comment upon God's arrows piercing or 'entering' (s.w.) David when he wrote that "A rebuke enters deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred lashes into a fool" (Prov. 17:10). True as this is, Solomon was all the same justifying his father's response to the rebuke of Nathan and the Divine arrows which 'entered deep' to David.

Psa 38:3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation, neither is there any health in my bones because of my sin-
The same language is used in the description of sinful Judah in Is. 1:6. David is used as a role model for their repentance.

Psa 38:4 For my sins have gone over my head; as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me-

It should be noted that the sin of adultery is not highlighted in Nathan's rebuke of David, but rather that David had " killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife" . This is twice emphasized in 12:9,10. This is not to say that the sin of weakness, of the moment, was irrelevant in God's sight. But the emphasis on how he had taken Bathsheba as his wife hints that this had been his long term intention, further suggesting that his sin with her was the end result of much prior meditation. This further illuminates the way in which David speaks of his sin with Bathsheba as if it comprised a whole multitude of other sins: " I acknowledged my sin (singular) unto thee...I said, I will confess my transgressions (plural)" (Ps. 32:5 cp. 38:3,4,18). Ps. 25:7 also occurs in a  Bathsheba context: " Remember not the sins of my youth..." ; as if facing up to his sin with Bathsheba made David face up to sins of years ago, possibly also in a sexual context.

Psalm 38 speaks of how the guilt of his sin weighed so heavily upon him (Ps. 38:4 NIV), whereas Ps. 32:5 describes how the guilt of sin has now been lifted from him- implying that he wrote Ps. 38 some time after the sin, but before repenting properly. The point is, he didn’t crash completely, he didn’t turn away from God in totality- he was still writing Psalms at the time! 

We must bear the burden either of our sins (Am. 2:13; Is. 58:6; Ps. 38:4) or of the Lord's cross (Gal. 6:4 etc.). We will experience either the spiritual warfare of the striving saint (Rom. 7:15-25), or the lusts of the flesh warring in our members, eating us up with the insatiability of sin (James 4:1; Ez. 16:28,29). Either we will mourn now in repentance (Lk. 6:25; the Greek for " mourn" is often in a repentance context), or we will mourn at the judgment (Mt. 8:12 etc.).

Psa 38:5 My wounds are loathsome and corrupt because of my foolishness-
David clearly directly connected his illness with his sin. There was likely no medical truth in this; but God worked through his misunderstanding, just as He did through similar misunderstandings about demons in the first century. We may well enquire whether "foolishness" is not rather a mild term for what he had done (also used in Ps. 69:5); surely "wickedness" would have been more appropriate. "Foolishness" is often used in Proverbs to refer to unwisdom and even silliness. But what David did surely requires more extreme language. We note that David has been quick to use a wide range of harsh adjectives and ideas in describing the wickedness of others like Saul who had tried to murder the innocent. And David had actually done so.

Psa 38:6 I am pained-
"Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me" (Ps. 38:4) was spoken before David's frank confession of Ps. 51. It therefore reveals how David felt swamped by his sense of sin; whilst recognizing it, he couldn't come to terms with explicitly confessing it. Every child of God must have come somewhere near to this feeling. The flesh can deceive us that just recognizing our sin somewhere in our consciousness is all that is needed. The lesson taught by David is that there is the need for frank and total confession; otherwise, the bad conscience will only deepen. "I am pained" (Ps. 38:6) uses Hebrew which is elsewhere translated 'to commit iniquity' (Ps. 106:6), 'to be crooked'. This is David recognizing 'I am a sinner'- but still this did not help him. Specific, uninhibited confession was still not forthcoming.

And bowed down greatly- The word can mean 'to humble'; and this is the required response to sin. David was representative of Israel in their sinfulness (s.w. Ps. 107:39); they were intended to follow his path of penitence.

I go mourning all day long- Evidence of a psychological and emotional breakdown.

Psa 38:7 For my waist is filled with burning-
AV "a loathsome disease". Earlier David had used the word in describing himself as "lightly esteemed" (1 Sam. 18:23). What had been mere words expressing theoretical humility were now translated into actual ownership. Our expressions of humility likewise are brought into reality by God's hand, often working through our own sins.


There is no soundness in my body- The word used for Judah's woeful condition in Is. 1:6. It should be noted that David/Bathsheba language is used to describe Israel's spiritually fallen state (e.g. Ps. 38:7 = Is. 1:6; Ps. 51:7 = Is. 1:18; Ps. 65:2 = Is. 40:15). David recognized this in Ps. 51:17, where he likens his own state to that of Zion, which also needed to be revived by God's mercy. As David's sin is likened to the killing of a lamb (2 Sam. 12:4), so the Jews killed Jesus. The troubles which therefore came upon his kingdom have certain similarities with the events of AD67-70.  They were also repeated in the Nazi Holocaust, and will yet be. Israel are yet to fully repent after the pattern of David.


Psa 38:8 I am faint and severely bruised; I have groaned by reason of the anguish of my heart-
"When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring" (Ps. 32:3) must refer to David's roaring to God in prayer (Ps.22:1) before  David's repentance, whilst keeping silent about his sin. In the same context he laments: "I have roared by reason of the disquietness (bad conscience) of my heart" (Ps. 38:8 AV). His very separation from God made him pray to God the more, pleading for some form of spiritual healing. But without realistic confession of sin, such prayer was shouting out words into the darkness. David found that attempting to have a relationship with God in such bad conscience only adds to the pain.  


Psa 38:9 Lord, all my desire is before You; my groaning is not hidden from You-
All his desire was for forgiveness and salvation; and this was granted. At the end of his life (Ps. 37:25), David reflected that if we "delight yourself in Yahweh... He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4). The desires of the heart is paralleled in Psalm 37 with inheriting the land eternally. If this is our greatest desire, we shall receive it. This is a sublime truth. All those who truly love the Lord's appearing as the master passion of their lives- will be acceptable to Him (2 Tim. 4:8). This is why the hope of the Kingdom can never be a mere hobby, but is by its very nature the all consuming passion of human life.

Psa 38:10 My heart throbs, my strength fails me. As for the light of my eyes, it has also left me-
This could refer to heart problems and failing eyesight, perhaps suggesting David had suffered a stroke soon after sinning with Bathsheba. The language however seems tailored by him to allude to Job, whose sufferings he often feels he fellowships. And this is how we should be- seeing precedent in Biblical characters for all our experiences.

Psa 38:11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my plague, my kinsmen stand far away-
It is possible to infer that David and Bathsheba experienced a falling out of love immediately after the incident- as with many cases of adultery and fornication. In contrast to their previous close contact, she had to send to tell him that she was pregnant. In addition, before David's repentance he appears to have suffered with some kind of serious disease soon after it: "My loins are filled with a loathsome (venereal?) disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh" (:7 AV). It is even possible that David became impotent as a result of this; for we get the impression that from this point onwards he took no other wives, he had no more children, and even the fail safe cure for hypothermia didn't seem to mean much to David (1 Kings 1:1-4). Therefore "My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore" (Ps. 38:11) must refer to some kind of venereal disease. The Hebrew word translated " lovers" definitely refers to carnal love rather than that of friendship. It may be that an intensive plural is being used here- in which case it means 'my one great lover', i.e. Bathsheba. We have commented earlier how Amnon's obsessive love for Tamar was an echo of David's relationship with Bathsheba. There may be a parallel in the way in which afterwards, "Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he loved her" (2 Sam. 13:15). All this would have been yet another aspect of the emotional trauma which David went through at this time; to fall out of love with the woman for which he had almost thrown away his eternal salvation. And in addition to this, all Israel would have got to know about what had happened- with a fair degree of exaggeration thrown in, we can be sure.

The fact that the Father and Son right now accept us should strengthen against the pain of rejection both from the world we preach to, and from our brethren. Thus in Ps. 38:11-15 David laments at how rejected he is by all, and yet takes strength from God’s acceptance of him. Our conviction that we are accepted of Him should enable us to overcome the waves of rejection that inevitably accompany the preaching of the Gospel, and which discourage so many would-be preachers. We simply must believe that we will be there. David so often looks forward to the day of judgment with eagerness. David's enthusiasm for the coming of judgment reflected his understanding that it will be a day of the display of Divine mercy.

The Bathsheba Psalms all have special relevance to the Lord on the cross. His lovers, friends and kinsmen stood far off from Him, perhaps in a literal sense, perhaps far away from understanding Him. If Mary wasn't initially at the cross, John's connection between the dividing of the clothes and her being there would suggest that she had made the clothes. In any case, the four women at the cross are surely set up against the four soldiers there- who gambled over the clothes. Perhaps the other women had also had some input into the Lord’s clothing. "But there stood by the cross..." makes the connection between Mary and the clothes. It seems that initially, she wasn't there; He looked for comforters and found none (Ps. 69:20- or does this imply that the oft mentioned spiritual difference between the Lord and His mother meant that He didn't find comfort in her? Or she only came to the cross later?).


Psa 38:12 They also who seek after my life lay snares, those who seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and meditate deceits all day long- It seems that there were plots against David immediately after his sin with Bathsheba- although the historical records don't appear to mention them. Bathsheba's grandfather, Ahithophel, later sided with Absalom against David. But the language here is relevant to Saul's persecution. David perhaps rewrote a wilderness Psalm with relevance to his later situation, perceiving that circumstances repeat in the life of the believer, and what he had learnt from one situation was to be applied to later ones in our lives.

Psa 38:13 But I, as a deaf man, don’t hear. I am as a mute man who doesn’t open his mouth-
This could refer to how David didn't hear or see the plans to overthrow him- because he didn't want to. Just as Samson chose not to perceive in reality that Delilah was going to betray him despite knowing she would, and as the Lord knew Judas would betray Him, but trusted him as His own familiar friend. David likewise must have known the deceit of Ahithophel and Absalom; but he chose not to see it, for love’s sake. See on Ps. 41:9.

Or we can read this as meaning that he didn't pay attention to the bad things said about him at this time. Maybe he was alluding to how Saul, when likewise criticized by “sons of belial”, “was as though he had been deaf” to their words (1 Sam. 10:27 RVmg.). He saw the good in Saul, he remembered that one good example he showed- and it empowered him to follow it.  


Psa 38:14 Yes, I am as a man who doesn’t hear, in whose mouth are no reproofs-
See on Ps. 51:4. We along with all the righteous ought to “shout for joy” that David really was forgiven (Ps. 32:11)- for there is such hope for us now. David is our example. And yet the intensity of David’s repentance must be ours. He hung his head as one in whose mouth there were no more arguments, hoping only in the Lord’s grace (Ps. 38:14 RVmg.). In describing his feelings after the Bathsheba experience, David comments that he was "as a man that hears not [the taunts of others against him], and in whose mouth are no rebukes" (Ps. 38:14 AV). The pre-Bathsheba Psalms present David as a man who was so easily hurt by the taunts of others, and whose mouth was indeed full of rebuke of others.  

Psa 38:15 For in You, Yahweh, do I hope. You will answer, Lord my God-
David's Psalms written before the sin with Bathsheba reflect a profound sense of God's grace. Now this theoretical awareness is tested in practice. David knows he is guilty of death under the Mosaic law; there is no sacrifice prescribed for his gross sins. And yet he appears so positive of being answered by God. It's wonderful how God uses sin and all manner of human dysfunction in order to help us actualize our previously theoretical understandings of His love and grace.

Psa 38:16 For I said, Don’t let them gloat over me, or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips-
David recognized that his steps had slid (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). But at the end of his life, he reflects that the steps of the righteous don't slip (Ps. 37:25,31). Perhaps David came to minimize his earlier slipping, especially in the matter of Bathsheba, in his old age. Or perhaps he was able to look back and see that despite temporary sliding of steps, ultimately the steps of the righteous don't slide in the overall path of their life. 

Psa 38:17 For I am ready to fall; my pain is continually before me-
"In mine adversity (Heb. tsela, limping) they rejoiced" (Ps. 35:15), "I am ready to halt (tsela) and my sorrow (repentance) is continually before me" (Ps. 38:17) uses a word which occurs elsewhere mainly in the context of Jacob limping after the night of wrestling (Gen. 32:31). This is one of many of David’s allusions to Jacob.

Many of the Psalms understood by the Jews as relevant to the Nazi holocaust are Bathsheba Psalms. “Out of the depths” they cried like David; and at the entrance to Bergen-Belsen it stands written: “My sorrow is continually before me” (Ps. 38:17), in recognition of having received punishment for sin [note how these kind of plaques contain no trace of hatred or calling for Divine retribution upon the persecutors]. See on 2 Cor. 7:7-11. 

David's genuine sorrow for his sin during this period is still a powerful exhortation to us, whose every sin must be repented of and forgiven after the pattern of David's repentance. The extent of his sorrow is heavily stressed: "My sorrow is continually before me... my sin is ever before me" (Ps. 38:17; 51:3). How much sorrow is there for our sins? Have the years mellowed our terror at sin? Things which once appalled us can so easily become sins of habit, the real sorrow we once experienced on committing them can be watered down to just a vague tickle of conscience. The significance of David's sin and repentance being held up as an example of our own should be a good antidote against such problems. The chilling thing is, despite all this awareness of his sin during the nine month period, when he was told the parable by Nathan- he just didn’t see it. Every part of the story had such relevant application, but David was blinded to it. He knew he had sinned, but this was only on a surface level. “Thou art the man” was still news to him. We have commented that “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments” (Ps. 119:176) was likely written by David with his mind on his follies relating to Bathsheba. The point, is in the ‘lost’ state, he still remembered the commandments. He didn’t turn his back on God; and neither do we, in our semi-spiritual unspirituality. We can likewise be blinded to true, personal understanding of God’s message because of our refusal to truly repent. Corinth and the Hebrews could not understand the strong meet of the word because they were divided; their divisiveness hindered their understanding. Husbands and wives find their prayers hindered unless they are themselves united. 


Psa 38:18 For I will declare my iniquity, I will be sorry for my sin-
David through his Psalms was publically declaring his sin. "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin" (Ps. 38:17,18) may mean that David was so swamped by the trauma of the sin and the distancing from God which he was experiencing, that he could only vaguely resolve that some time in the future he would get down to a serious prayer session, in which he would analyze and confess his sin. But instead he goes on desperately pleading "O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me...". Our own sins so often gives us a nagging conscience; not because we are consciously trying to pretend that we never sinned, but because we will not make the effort to overcome the circumstances which stop us making the mental effort necessary to put ourselves straight with God.  

"Declare" is the word used for David's declaration of praise after his forgiveness concerning Bathsheba (Ps. 51:15). The "truth" which David declared after his forgiveness (Ps. 30:9) was the ultimate truth, of God's forgiveness of him by grace; a 'declaring' of his sin (Ps. 38:18 s.w.) and God's forgiveness.

Psa 38:19 But my enemies are vigorous and many. Those who hate me without reason are numerous-
"Without reason" reflects again David's deep sense of injustice (see on Ps. 35:7). He uses the word for "false witness", as if they were breaking one of the ten commandments; and he uses it often, heaping condemnation upon any who dare lie / bear false witness about him (Ps. 38:19; 52:3; 63:11; 101:7; 119:29,69,86,118; 120:2; 144:8,11). And yet David lied and deceived in order to get Uriah killed so that he could take his wife for himself. Surely reflection upon that sin made him realize that his zeal to condemn dishonesty was at best misplaced; to lament it is one thing, but David was to be taught that he had himself done the very thing he so condemned. We sense that he has not yet come to full recognition of the enormity of his sin; for to complain that his sufferings are "without reason" is inappropriate given what he did.

Psa 38:20 They who also render evil for good are adversaries to me, because I follow what is good-
As noted on :19, we sense that David's sense of outrage and injustice, insisting he has done "good", is inappropriate considering the enormity of his sin. He still has to come to a fullness of repentance; and indeed it could be argued from some of the post Bathsheba Psalms that he perhaps failed to have the depth of repentance he might have done, or at least rationalized his behaviour over the years.

Psa 38:21 Don’t forsake me, Yahweh. My God, don’t be far from me-
David prayed at the time of the Bathsheba incident for God not be far from him nor forsake him (Ps. 38:21). But in Ps. 22:1,19 he feels he has been forsaken and that God is "far off". But Psalm 22 is absolutely the feelings of the Lord Jesus on the cross- because He was so intensely identified with sinners. I noted on Ps. 22:3 that the historical context of that Psalm was the sin with Bathsheba. The plea for God not to "be far from me" is common (Ps. 22:11,19; 35:22; 38:21; 71:12). The emphasis perhaps is to be placed upon David not wanting God to be far from him, seeing that he felt others were 'far' from him (s.w. Ps. 88:8,18). He accepted his social and psychological isolation from others, but he didn't want God to be likewise far off from him. In the context of the exiles, God was willing to not be 'far off' from the exiles if they repented (Is. 46:13).

Psa 38:22 Hurry to help me, Lord, my salvation
- David repeatedly asks God to "hurry to help me" (Ps. 22:19; 38:22; 40:13; 70:1,5; 141:1). But David had hurried (s.w.) to be obedient to God, always wanting to 'say yes straight away' (Ps. 119:60). Our response to God's voice is therefore related to His response to our voice; if His words abide in us, then we experience positive experience in answered prayer (Jn. 15:7).

Psalm 38 appears to be David's lament of his bad conscience, some time before he makes his confession of Ps. 51. Psalm 38 shows that David certainly had some faith in God before his confession: "Forsake me not... make haste to help  me, O Lord my salvation" (Ps. 38:22). Yet it is possible to intensely believe in the mercy of God, His ability to save, and yet not have the real faith- which is to believe that this mercy and salvation really can still apply to us personally. Thus he prays "Make me to hear joy and gladness" (Ps. 51:8). His introspective world of sin and self-hate found joy a paradigm impossible to relate to; as with mercy and salvation, he knew spiritual joy existed, but seemed unable to make this apply to him personally.